Impact of Human Disasters and COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health: Potential of Digital Psychiatry

Psychiatr Danub. 2020 Spring;32(1):25-31. doi: 10.24869/psyd.2020.25.


Deep emotional traumas in societies overwhelmed by large-scale human disasters, like, global pandemic diseases, natural disasters, man-made tragedies, war conflicts, social crises, etc., can cause massive stress-related disorders. Motivated by the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the article provides an overview of scientific evidence regarding adverse impact of diverse human disasters on mental health in afflicted groups and societies. Following this broader context, psychosocial impact of COVID-19 as a specific global human disaster is presented, with an emphasis on disturbing mental health aspects of the ongoing pandemic. Limited resources of mental health services in a number of countries around the world are illustrated, which will be further stretched by the forthcoming increase in demand for mental health services due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health challenges are particularly important for the Republic of Croatia in the current situation, due to disturbing stress of the 2020 Zagreb earthquake and the high pre-pandemic prevalence of chronic Homeland-War-related posttraumatic stress disorders. Comprehensive approach based on digital psychiatry is proposed to address the lack of access to psychiatric services, which includes artificial intelligence, telepsychiatry and an array of new technologies, like internet-based computer-aided mental health tools and services. These tools and means should be utilized as an important part of the whole package of measures to mitigate negative mental health effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. Our scientific and engineering experiences in the design and development of digital tools and means in mitigation of stress-related disorders and assessment of stress resilience are presented. Croatian initiative on enhancement of interdisciplinary research of psychiatrists, psychologists and computer scientists on the national and EU level is important in addressing pressing mental health concerns related to the ongoing pandemic and similar human disasters.

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / psychology*
  • Croatia
  • Disasters*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Mental Health*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / psychology*
  • Psychiatry* / trends
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telemedicine* / trends
  • User-Computer Interface